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Top Heavy to Top Table

posted 8 Feb 2011, 11:28 by knight moves   [ updated 8 Feb 2011, 13:54 ]
Stafford fielded a top heavy team on Monday 7th February, in an away match against the current Cannock Division 2 leaders, Rushall.  Fortunately, Stafford's only possible line-up due to player availability and grading limits, came in just 15 points off the limit of 550, although Malcolm Armstrong accounted for a hefty portion of that on his own.
Peter Evans was first to finish, playing white on board 3.  Having played into an advance variation of the French Defence, Peter found his King stuck in the middle after an exchange of queens and queenside rooks had forced his king to the d1 square.  Going a pawn down in the process added to his troubles, although his opponents pawn structure by this stage was far from solid.  After jousting for minor piece position, Peter built up pressure on his opponent's weakened queenside pawns, which forced a rallying of defensive forces.  However, following an exchange of the main characters, a draw was agreed in a complex position and the clock ticking louder.
Guy de Visme playing black on board 4, finished around the same time.  Having played solidly to match his opponent in every move of an opening that I must confess to not knowing, this game seemed to be one of those that was heading for a draw from an early stage.  With blocked pawn formations, and no real opportunity to gain even a minor advantage without significant risk, the draw was indeed agreed long before an endgame was even in sight.
Ken McNulty had rather a strange game with the black pieces on board 2.  In an unusual opening, which transposed into a more unusual French, white played into an unfavourable position which seen his knight on f3 attacked by Ken's pawn on e4, while also being pinned by a bishop against the queen on e2.  However, white found some very useful defensive moves, which meant that Ken could not immediately capture the vulnerable knight for fear of a back rank mate.  A critical position then arose at move 15, and with both players struggling to find the best continuation, the clocks happily ticked away.  By move 20, Ken was within 5 minutes of the first time control with 10 moves to make and had let the game slip to an even looking position.  Only a mistake from his opponent allowed a decisive looking knight fork on the rooks, which in turn allowed some quick moves to be played and eventually led to the first win of the night for Stafford.
Now with Stafford in the fortunate position of being unable to lose the match, the final score came down to the 'big guns' on board 1.  Malcolm Armstrong with white for Stafford, faced some aggressive opening counter play from his opponent in the form of a Benoni defense, but he adopted his usual tack of sound strategical play, positioning his pieces on naturally strong squares.  As so often is the case with Malcolm, this approach worked well and his opponent stretched with some over-ambitous play, leaving the Stafford player with an advantage which he then pressed.  With well supported pawns advanced to e6 and f5, and the opponents queen out of the immediate action on b7, black's defensive forces suffered some casualties before the King was finally toppled and Malcolm secured the overall 3-1 win, and with it the top spot in the CDCL Division 2 table.